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Flower and Tree Magic
Flower and Tree Magic
Discover the Natural Enchantment Around You

By: Richard Webster
Imprint: Llewellyn
Specs: Trade Paperback | 9780738713496
English  |  240 pages | 6 x 9 x 1 IN
Pub Date: July 2008
Price: $15.95 US,  $18.50 CAN
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                             Sacred and Magical Trees

Certain trees have always been considered magical and sacred. The myths and folklore of northern Europe are full of stories that involve the powerful spiritual presence provided by trees. Trees are full of the energy and life force provided by Mother Earth. At one time, tree worship was extremely common. People who lived in forested areas observed the mysterious growth of trees, and believed it to be caused by the spirits who lived inside them. Trees were thought to be the homes of the gods, and the rustling of the leaves spoke an otherworldly message. Trees were rooted in the earth but reached up into heaven. The mystery of trees that shed their leaves in autumn, and produced beautiful new leaves in spring, symbolized rebirth and renewal. Evergreen trees symbolized the universal, everlasting spirit. The superstition of knocking on wood for luck dates all the way back to ancient tree worship.

Trees provided shelter and shade, and timber provided heat and building materials. Amulets and talismans were made from their wood, and they were planted in strategic positions to provide pro­tection from the forces of evil. The fruits, flowers, leaves, and roots provided food and medicine. People gained energy and emotional healing by walking through a forest or grove of trees.

The ancient Canaanites deified the tree. Tree trunks were shorn of their branches and erected for worship. These trunks were sacred to the goddess Asherah and shared her name. Chips or splin­ters taken from an asherah were prized and sought after, as they bestowed fertility and abundance. The saying “a chip off the old block” comes from this belief.

There is even an apparent reference to the magical and spiri­tual aspects of trees in the Bible. Genesis 21:33 reads: “And Abra­ham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.”

The ancient Celts venerated the oak, ash, and thorn, believ­ing the trio to be an extremely powerful and sacred combination. Groves containing all three of these are particularly magical places. Many people have claimed to see fairies while resting or meditat­ing in a grove containing the triad of ash, oak, and thorn.

The English tell a charming legend about Joseph of Arimathea. When he arrived at Glastonbury in 63 ce, he planted his staff in the ground on Wearyall Hill and it immediately blossomed into a hawthorn tree. This tree, known as the Holy Thorn, bloomed every Christmas. A Puritan cut it down in 1643, but fortunately its descendants survived and bloom to this day. A new Holy Thorn was planted on the hill in 1951.

The maypole dance, still performed in many English villages on the first day of May each year, is derived from ancient fertility rituals. Traditionally, people gathered flowers and greenery to help celebrate this day and to bring fertility to the entire community. Originally, people danced around a hawthorn tree, but over time this was superseded by a pole garlanded with flowers.

The burning of the yule log at Christmas was originally per­formed to encourage the sun to return and create spring. The yule log is almost always as the Holy Thorn, bloomed every Christmas. A Puritan cut it down in 1643, but fortunately its descendants survived and bloom to this day. A new Holy Thorn was planted on the hill in 1951.

 

 

The maypole dance, still performed in many English villages on the first day of May each year, is derived from ancient fertility rituals. Traditionally, people gathered flowers and greenery to help celebrate this day and to bring fertility to the entire community. Originally, people danced around a hawthorn tree, but over time this was superseded by a pole garlanded with flowers.

The burning of the yule log at Christmas was originally per­formed to encourage the sun to return and create spring. The yule log is almost always oak.

The Tree of Life appears in many creation mythologies, includ­ing those of the Zoroastrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians. The belief is that the world is flat and a large tree supports the heavens above.

The Yakut of Siberia tell the story of the first man who set out to explore the world. He came across a huge tree that joined heaven, Earth, and the Underworld. The spirit of the tree used its leaves to communicate with the gods. The first man was lonely and asked the tree for help. The spirit of the tree caused a young woman to emerge from beneath its roots. She offered him milk from her breasts, and immediately the man was filled with confi­dence, strength, and energy._

The Tree of Life mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 2:9 and 3:22) conferred immortality. People sometimes confuse this tree with the one from which Adam and Eve ate. That tree is called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Of course, once Adam and Eve had been expelled from the Garden of Eden they left the Tree of Life behind, which meant they were no longer immortal.

Stories of this sort show just how magical trees were to ancient people.

Pre-Columbian cultures saw the world in much the same way. A silk cotton or kapok tree, known as the World Tree, rose from the Underworld and ascended to the heavens. The Mayans believed the souls of the dead climbed this tree to get to heaven. The souls of people who committed suicide rested in the shade of the World Tree, and were protected by the goddess Ixtab.

The ancient Chinese also worshipped trees. Chinese mythol­ogy includes a number of huge trees that connect heaven and Earth. People are able to climb them to get to heaven, but to proceed further they need to gain the approval of the guardian deities who sit at the top of the tree. The leaning mulberry tree was one of the most important of these. In Chinese mythology, ten suns rose from the mulberry tree and caused a drought that threatened the entire world. Fortunately, a famous archer named Yu killed nine of the suns with his arrows, and thus saved the entire world from disaster.

Another important tree in Chinese lore is the peach, known as the Tree of Life. It was one of seven trees that grew on the slopes of the Kuen-Luèn Mountains. The goddess Si Wang Mu gave gifts of peaches to people, and anyone who received one became immortal. The peach blossoms in February, considered a good time of the year for weddings. Even today the Chinese consider the peach to be a symbol of longevity, immortality, and a happy marriage. Chi­nese artists frequently show the God of Long Life emerging from a ripe peach.

Trees were frequently decorated with garlands and lanterns as part of tree worship. Shrines were often placed in the fork of a tree, as this is where local gods lived. A strip of red cloth was sometimes attached to the tree to protect it and ward off evil spirits.

In Scandinavia, Yggdrasil was a huge ash tree at the center of the world. Its roots went all the way down to the Underworld, its trunk was in the world of humans, and its branches were up in the heavens. A famous story tells how Odin hung himself upside down on this tree for nine nights in order to gain wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of the runes.

In Bali, the banyan tree is believed to connect heaven and Earth.

The Tree of Life is also the name given to the diagram of the Kabbalah, which was originally depicted as a tree.

The Dyak tribes in Borneo have a Tree of Life called Kayu Abilau, which can be climbed by dream-wanderers when they are in a trance state. Once they have climbed the tree, they can talk to Aping, their god of the forest.

Various mythologies tell how mankind was created from trees. In Norse mythology, Odin and his brothers created the first man, Askr, from an ash tree, and his wife, Embla, from an elm. In the Greek tradition, Zeus used the trunks of ash trees to create the bronze men.

A tribe of Australian aborigines called the Yarralin has a grove of trees near Lingara, in the Northern Territory, which is used for sacred dreaming. Young men gather clay from the billabong, or water hole, in the middle of the grove and mix it with scrapings of bark from the trees to make a potion they believe will help them attract women. Their womenfolk also have dreaming trees, and visit them to receive the necessary spiritual essence to stimulate conception and birth.

Many trees have been considered sacred and magical at differ­ent times. Here are some of the most important of them:

Alder

The alder tree burns easily and has been called the tree of fire. In the Greek tradition, the alder was sacred to Phoroneus, the inven­tor of fire. In Celtic mythology, the alder is extremely brave and fought in the front line during the battle of the trees. Whistles made from alder wood are reputed to be able to harness and con­trol the four winds. Flutes can also be made from alder and used for magical purposes. Herbalists in Europe prescribed alder bark to treat inflammations. Heated alder leaves were used to treat chronic skin problems, and the bark and leaves were used to create a gargle to relieve mouth ulcers.

Almond

The almond tree has been considered the tree of wisdom ever since Jeremiah saw an almond branch in a vision (Jeremiah 1:11). This branch symbolized the gift of prophecy and wisdom that God gave to Jeremiah.

Moses took twelve rods from different families into the tab­ernacle, and Aaron’s rod was made of almond wood. While in the tabernacle it budded, blossomed, and produced almonds (Numbers 17:8). This signified that Aaron and his descendants would become the religious leaders of the Jewish people.

The ancient Aramaic name for almond is luz, which means “light.” This is because they believed divine light shone mystically from the almond. Jacob experienced his famous dream while stay­ing at Luz, an almond grove in Canaan (Genesis 28:11–19). This divine light is still represented in the menorah today, which con­tains a light for all seven planets.

In the Christian tradition, the almond symbolizes divine grace and is associated with the Virgin Mary. In Persia, the almond sym­bolized the tree of heaven. In China, the almond symbolizes femi­ninity and the necessary strength to surmount difficult situations.

The almond tree is popular with fairies who enjoy its sweet­ness and modest nature.

Apple

The apple tree was sacred to the Druids. Apple was considered a tree of choice, since meditating under it would help one make the correct decision. Magic wands are frequently made from apple wood. The Druids associated it with fertility and marriage.

The apple has been associated with health, passion, and earthly pleasures since the time of the ancient Greeks. The Greeks dedi­cated the apple to Demeter, goddess of sustenance, and Aphrodite, goddess of love.

Many people assume the forbidden fruit that Eve gave to Adam was an apple. However, the Bible refers to it only as fruit from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17).

If you cut an apple in half horizontally to the stem, the core forms a pentagram, a sacred figure in magic. The fruit of the apple is frequently used in spells and potions to attract love. In fairy tales, the eating of an apple virtually guaranteed a young couple would be blessed with children. During the Renaissance, young French­men tried to capture the hearts of young maidens by offering them an apple. In medieval Germany, young men carved letters into an apple before giving it to their girlfriends to eat. An old Italian story tells how a pig accidentally ate one of these apples and fell madly in love with the young man who had carved letters into it.

Not long ago I saw a young woman twisting the stem of an apple while calling out the letters of the alphabet. She was follow­ing an ancient ritual that says the stem will break when she calls out the first letter of the name of her future lover.

A close friend of mine, who regularly communicates with trees, insists the apple tree is the happiest, friendliest tree of all. It enjoys providing a bountiful crop of fruit for people who look after it.

An old English custom says that people can help apple trees produce bountiful crops over many years by drinking cider under them and offering them a toast.

Pruned branches from an apple tree can be burned in a fire­place to bring good luck to everyone living in the home. For best results, soak the branches in brine or seawater for a lunar month (twenty-eight days). Allow the branches to dry out completely and then enjoy the pleasant odor they produce while burning.

The story of John Chapman (1774–1845), better known as Johnny Appleseed, has become an integral part of American cul­ture. His mission in life was to grow and distribute apple trees. He collected seeds from cider presses in Pennsylvania and carried them west on horseback. He sold his trees for a “flip penny bit” (about six cents) but also accepted used clothing and promissory notes as payment. He also gave away trees to farmers who could not afford to buy them. His generosity, eccentric appearance, and cheerful personality all contributed to the legend that grew up about him. The words on his tombstone read: “He lived for others.”

Ash

The ash has been considered a sacred tree for thousands of years. An ancient Norse tradition claims that the first man was created from the branches of an ash tree. (The same tradition says the first woman was created from an elm.) The ash is sometimes referred to as the tree of knowledge. The Celts considered it a tree of enchant­ment, and Druids made healing wands from its branches. The ancient Greeks carried pieces of ash with them as lucky charms when traveling over water. This was because ash was considered sacred to Poseidon, the god of the ocean.

An ash leaf containing an even number of leaflets is consid­ered extremely fortunate and is still sometimes used as a charm to attract love. If you place the leaf under your pillow, you will dream of your future lover. Unfortunately, ash leaves with an even number of leaflets are extremely rare. Young women had to recite a rhyme when they found one:

This even ash I double in three,

The first man I meet my true love shall be;

If he be married let him pass by,

But if he be single, let him draw nigh.

Banyan

The banyan tree (Ficus bengalensis) has always been one of the most sacred trees in Asia. It is connected to Brahma, the immortal spirit or essence of the universe. Consequently, in India the banyan tree symbolizes immortality. The banyan tree is also considered remark­able, since it keeps on growing no matter how many of its branches are cut. The banyan is also related to people who grow and develop spiritually. Nowadays, people still water the roots and place offer­ings on banyan trees to attract good luck, happiness, and fertility.

See also Bodhi.

Beech

Until the Iron Age, the beech was a valuable source of food for people—who ate its leaf buds, leaves, and nuts. Oil was extracted from the nuts and provided an excellent source of protein.

The beech has also given us the word book, as slices of beech were bound together and written on to preserve knowledge.

Beech provides good luck and protection. It is an excellent wood for magic wands and lucky charms. At one time, the bark of the beech tree was used as a remedy for fever and to reduce swell­ing.

Birch

The birch has always symbolized fertility and new life. Jumping the broomstick, which is made of birch, is still a popular pagan tradi­tion. In Britain, single women would sometimes give their boy­friends a twig of birch to encourage them to propose.

In Norse mythology, the birch is associated with Freya, the lady of the forest. This is taken even further in Russia, where the birch tree itself is called Lady of the Forest.

Birch twigs are used to drive away evil spirits and to encourage the spirits of the previous year to leave. Today birch twigs are still used on the body in saunas and sweat lodges to stimulate circulation.

Birch wood can be used in any rituals or spells involving cleansing, support, or protection.

Traditionally, the three most fortunate trees to have close to home are the maple, the oak, and the silver birch. Folklore says that an oak tree will usually be found close to a birch tree, as they are considered husband and wife.

Bodhi

The bodhi tree is a species of fig. Hindus and Buddhists consider the bodhi tree to be the tree of wisdom. More than 2,600 years ago, Siddhartha Gautama achieved nirvana, or divine enlighten­ment, under a pipal tree (Ficus religiosa) at Bodh Gaya in northeast­ern India, and became Buddha. The sacred tree that Buddha used for shelter became known as bo or bodhi, which means “the tree of awakening.” Pilgrims still visit this sacred sanctuary today and can meditate under trees that are direct descendants of the tree Buddha used.

Cedar

The cedar tree was associated with fertility and immortality. Its wood was believed to be indestructible. For that reason, the cedar is commonly used to provide protection. The cedar was sacred to the Phoenicians and Sumerians. The Sumerians considered the cedar to be the World Tree, and the home of Ea, the creator of all humanity. The Chaldeans believed the cedar held all the secrets to the mystery of life.

The Egyptians used cedar oil for embalming purposes. The Celts also used cedar oil to preserve the heads of enemies killed in battle.

Because the most important gods lived inside cedar trees, the trees were asked if they could be used in the construction of tem­ples. It was especially important to have cedar doors, as the tree was a door to the divine and the door to a temple also symbolized the entrance to the divine. King Solomon’s temple contained a large amount of cedar, including the ceiling (1 Kings 6:15). King David’s house was built entirely from cedar (2 Samuel 7:2). The cedars of Lebanon are mentioned several times in the Bible (Judges 9:1 5; Psalms 92:12, 104:16, 148:9; Solomon 5:15; Isaiah 2:13; Ezekiel 17:3).


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